Survivor of clerical abuse vows to use place on Vatican commission to 'speak out as always'
CLERICAL abuse survivor Marie Collins has vowed to use her position on the Vatican commission on child protection to press for bishops to be sanctioned if they fail to implement church rules.
The Dublin mother of one said that she would speak out as she had always done and would not be "overawed" by high-ranking titles when she attends the first meeting of the commission in the Vatican next month.
Ms Collins – who was abused by a chaplain while ill in hospital at the age of 13 back in the 1960s – became aware that she had been appointed to the commission last Friday when she received a call from a high-ranking official in the Vatican.
"It was someone who kicked off the call with: 'I'm calling on behalf of His holiness' – I picked myself up off the floor. It was a huge surprise," Marie, inset, told the Irish Independent.
It was the courage of Ms Collins and the recently deceased Christine Buckley in coming forward to fight for justice that finally lifted the lid on how the Catholic Church in Ireland protected its paedophile priests.
Ms Collins finally succeeded in seeing Fr Paul McGennis being convicted in 1997 for abusing her, along with another girl in his former parish in Co Wicklow. He got an 18-month sentence – which was halved on appeal.
A founding member of Aware, the depression support group, and also a founding trustee of One in Four, the advocacy and support group for abuse survivors, Ms Collins had been calling for victims of clerical abuse to be represented on the commission – but never thought it would be her.
Not everybody is supportive of her taking up the position, with some questioning whether she should be "colluding" with the church, she revealed. However, she believes it would be "madness" to turn the opportunity down, given that she had spoken out for what is needed.
Ms Collins conceded she was "very disappointed" by Pope Francis earlier this month when he claimed the church had done more than anyone on the issue of abuse, apparently ignoring the fact that the church had been criticised largely because abusers had been protected by those in authority.
"I'm certainly going in with an open mind," she said of her appointment.
The issues she will personally be strong on is the need to bring accountability. "There's no pointing in bringing in policies for child safeguarding if there is no accountability. Bishops have no sanctions and that would certainly be something I'd bring in as absolutely necessary."
She will also highlight the need for better care of survivors, saying the legal process has been "too difficult" on them, with the issue of further compensation "all having to be looked at".
"I'll be straight out in everything I say," she added.
"I won't be awed by titles or the Vatican . . . I'd like to reassure survivors that I will not be put down or quieted by the circumstances of being in a commission at this level. It's too important and I intend to speak as I have always done."
The other seven members of the commission are Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley; Sheila Hollins, an English member of the House of Lords and mental health specialist; Hanna Suchocka, a former Polish prime minister; Catherine Bonnet, a French child psychiatrist; Claudio Papal, a canon lawyer at the Pontifical University; Fr Hans Zollner, a German Jesuit; and Fr Humberto Miguel Yanez, an Argentine Jesuit and former student of Pope Francis.